Friday, February 6, 2009

The Rejection Translator

I've seen a lot of rejections. Honestly, after a while they start to get a little funny. I mean, they all are saying the same thing, no matter how long or short. If you are new to the Query War, or if you are still stressing over rejection wording, let me play translator for a second.

"This isn't right for my list."
Translation: No.

"Your work had an interesting premise, but I'm afraid I'm not interested enough to pursue the project."
Translation: No.

"I regret to inform you that I will not be pursuing your project. I have many constraints on my time and must be extremely selective."
Translation: No.

Note: Any variation of the three above examples should also be translated as "NO."

"Rest assured, we read every query carefully before deciding."
Translation: Don't query again or reply to this with a complaint.

"We are aware of the work it takes to write a book, and this rejection doesn't reflect on the value of your manuscript."
Translation: Please don't flame me for saying no, I'm not trying to hurt your feelings.

"Opinions vary widely in this business, I encourage you to keep trying."
Translation: Don't put all your hopes on me. I may be an awesome agent, but there are many others out there.

"The business is very subjective."
Translation: The business IS VERY SUBJECTIVE.

"Don't get discouraged." (And all variants.)
Translation: I know it's a hard business, but the only way to find success is to keep trying.

Okay, so when you're reading your rejections, now you know what they say. You don't have to pour over them for any hidden gems of advice. Unless you get a personalized rejection, this is pretty much what every form is telling you—no matter the length.

It's not so bad, is it?

Full Translation: No. Don't get mad at us. It's not you, it's me. Keep trying! Best regards, Every Agent

If you have any other phrases you'd like translated, I'll be here all weekend.


  1. Then there's the day you find out it really IS a subjective business, and there really WAS someone out there that it was a perfect fit for!

    He he, thanks for the translations though ; )

  2. This came in one of mine recently: "...please forgive us for responding with a form letter."

    I think I actually laughed out loud :)

  3. Ha, yes, AC, that falls under the "Don't send us nasty email because we send form letters" category.

    I think rejection letters reveal a lot about what kind of crazies certain agents have run into.

  4. You know that they have to get tons of really weird people. Have you ever read Jodi Meadows Slush stats? She's a reader for Jenny Rappaport. On Sat. she gives a rundown of some of the stuff she's gotten during the week. It's pretty crazy. On my blog she's under Words and Wardances of the blogs I follow if you want to check it out.

  5. A very funny post, Natalie. I've not had the (mis)fortune of entering the Query Wars just yet. I've completed some short stores, but nothing of novel length. After reading through the horror stories, I almost wonder if I should just go straight to the POD world if and when I ever do complete a manuscript. Perhaps the time sending out all of those query letters would be better invested in learning to self-market your POD novel?

  6. Blogger just ate a long comment. Basically it said "I hear ya!" just keep the faith!

  7. Unfortunately, we are unable to offer you representation as we are terrified of ninja cyborgs, especially those with a penchant for orange belts...

  8. This is a great post. Thanks for clearing up all those rejections I will be seeing soon. :)

  9. This post made me laugh. I think I've seen most of those lines before.

    It's funny how some agents take real effort to craft an encouraging and kind form rejection letter, and yet I somehow never feel encouraged after reading them.

    Personalized rejections are better. . . . slightly.

  10. Lotus, I have read Jodi, she's a hoot. (I've had 2 partials with them.) Crazy things happen in queries. Plain crazy.

    Scott, I don't know about POD. Maybe I'm just old fashioned. I love griping about querying, lol. I feel like I'm earning my writing stripes or something.

    Janey, sorry your post got eaten. I will certainly keep the faith:)

    Whirl, lol, and here I thought my threatening persona would scare them into repping me. Oh well.

    Glam, let those form rejects roll off your back when you get em. I know, easier said than done.

  11. Ah yes, I've read all of those. Hey, are you getting the same rejection letters I am?? Do you think they're just sending the very same ones to all of us?? And here I thought they were responding to me personally. LOL (in case anyone thought I was being serious, I wasn't)

  12. "Opinions vary widely in this business, I encourage you to keep trying."

    Actually, I think a more accurate translation for this is: It's not you, it's me. But if it were you, I wouldn't tell you because you'd just get mad at me and write me e-mail after e-mail trying to "explain" your manuscript, when we all know (well, I know, and you should) that your manuscript should not need explanation to be enjoyed - that's the whole point.

    Of course, "It's not you, it's me" is much more succinct ;-)

  13. I'll have to bookmark your translation post for when I start querying. That way I can have it ready for easy reference.

  14. My most blunt one: "I'm going to pass."


    That one hurt a little.

  15. "Full Translation: No. Don't get mad at us. It's not you, it's me. Keep trying! Best regards, Every Agent"

    LOL love it. You're too funny. (Every Agent? Not so much.)